Wet Northeast watches skies, worries about floods

DAVID PORTER - Associated Press

Residents of the Northeast nervously watched rising waterways Thursday as heavy rain swelled creeks and rivers, damaged houses, detoured commuters and forced a school to close in Ohio.

In Pompton Lakes, a pelting rain fell on Liri Zekirovski and a friend as they removed water-damaged furniture and flooring from Zekirovski's father-in-law's house next to the Pompton River.

It was the second time the area had been waterlogged in less than a week. In a small playground across the street, remnants of Sunday night's flooding could be seen in a bicycle rack that was nearly covered in mud.

"It's getting ridiculous. It's like every time it rains this is going to happen," Zekirovski said as he pointed to a water line on the front of the house about two and a half feet high. "It seems like we're putting in a new kitchen every six months. It might be better just to eat outside."

Flood watches were in effect across much of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. The Mid-Atlantic was also gearing up for rain-related problems; a mudslide closed one lane of a heavily traveled commuter road in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning.

The rising Ohio River shut down a Cincinnati public school Thursday and covered roads as the storm marched northward after soaking the Southeast, where it tore roofs off buildings and flipped cars.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency Wednesday. On Thursday, officials alerted about 100 New Jersey Army and Air National Guard troops that they may be placed on active duty to respond to any flooding.

Rainfall amounts of 3 inches or more were forecast for portions of northern New Jersey, where streams are still running high from a weekend storm that flooded many basements and forced evacuations in some low-lying areas.

Two to four inches were expected in Philadelphia through Friday, with similar amounts forecast for New York's Lower Hudson Valley.

At a conference in Philadelphia on Thursday addressing the quality of drinking water from the Delaware River, Environmental Protection Agency regional director Shawn Garvin spoke of his fondness for the waterway he knows so well.

"I'll be even more familiar with it when I'm vacuuming it out of my basement tonight," joked Garvin, who lives in Wilmington, Del.

In Ohio, heavy rains over the past week-and-a-half have swelled rivers and streams.

On Tuesday, the Scioto River in southern Ohio toppled a home that had been under construction in Piketon for the past 10 years.

Video shot by John Sparks' daughter shows his unfinished dream house floating down the river. Sparks told WSYX-TV that he plans to rebuild at the scenic site, saying it's a spot he loves more than anywhere on earth.

Cincinnati school officials said in a news release that Thursday's closing of Riverview East Academy was the first due to river conditions at the school, near the banks of the Ohio on the city's east side.

The National Weather Service said the river was expected to crest at 4 feet above flood stage by Friday morning.

In northeastern Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River is forecast to crest at 9 feet above flood stage in Wilkes-Barre by Saturday morning. The city is protected by a levee system, but nearby communities including Plymouth Township, Shickshinny, Plains Township and West Pittston are vulnerable.

The storm also was expected to bring snow to some spots.

Wet snow was expected to begin falling on northeast Ohio late Thursday. Up to a foot could accumulate through Friday, with the heaviest expected from the Akron area east to Youngstown and the Pennsylvania line.

Pittsburgh could see up to eight inches of snow by Saturday morning. In the Adirondacks in New York, forecasts called for several inches of snow.

Just a few days ago, a wild mix of snow, sleet and rain battered a wide swath of New England and upstate New York, dumping nearly 30 inches of snow on some areas, knocking out power to tens of thousands of utility customers, washing away homes and leaving many rivers and streams at high levels.

Those swollen waterways, combined with the saturated soil, could result in moderate to major flooding, weather officials warned.


Associated Press writers Beth DeFalco in Trenton, N.J., and Geoff Mulvihill in Philadelphia contributed to this report.